Impacts and consequences of bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power and someone repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else on purpose. It can occur one-on-one or in groups. Some bullying acts are illegal.

There are many forms of bullying.


Using your body or objects to cause harm. Examples include:

  • hitting
  • kicking
  • spitting on someone
  • breaking someone else's belongings


Using words to hurt someone. Examples include:

  • name calling
  • put-downs
  • threats
  • teasing


Using your friends and relationships to hurt someone. Examples include:

  • spreading rumours
  • gossiping
  • excluding others from a group
  • making others look foolish or unintelligent


Cyberbullying involves the use of communication technologies to bully, intimidate or harass others. For example, cyberbullying may take place on Web or social networking sites, or using email, text messaging or instant messaging.

Cyberbullying examples include:

  • Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online
  • Creating a website to make fun of others
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others

Cyberbullying affects victims in different ways than traditional bullying. It can follow a victim everywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It reaches victims in places that are usually safe from traditional forms of bullying.

Effects and consequences of bullying

Bullying, whether done in person or online, can be a traumatic experience. Its effects can last a lifetime, both for the victim and the bully.

Among other things, bullying can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Social anxiety
  • Stress-related health problems
  • Embarrassment
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Skipping school or low grades
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Detachment from family and friends
  • Self-harm
  • Contemplating, attempting or committing suicide

The law in Canada

Some bullying acts are illegal and offences under the Criminal Code. These include:

  • Criminal harassment (e.g., texts, phone calls, and/or emails that cause the other person to fear for their safety)
  • Child pornography (e.g., sharing intimate photos and videos of minors under the age of 18)
  • Uttering threats and extortion (e.g., threatening to share someone's personal information to others if they don't do as told)
  • Assault (e.g., threats or acts of non-consensual force, violence, bodily harm, or destruction of personal property)
  • Identity theft/fraud (e.g., creating a fake online profile to ruin someone's reputation)
  • Defamatory libel (e.g., spreading rumours about someone)

Helping someone

If you fear for your safety, or the safety of someone you know, call 9-1-1 or the local police department.

If you think or know someone is being bullied:

  • If it is safe to do so, try not to be a bystander and stand up for them.
  • Talk to them to let them know they can trust you and that they shouldn't deal with bullying alone.
  • Help them document the bullying.
  • Report the bullying, or help the victim do so.

How to report

You may report:

  • Criminal offences to your local police detachment
  • Cyberbullying to social media sites or apps
  • Online offences to
  • School bullying to school administrators
  • Unwanted text messages to telephone service providers

Additional resources

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